Skip to main content

Full text of "My country and my people"

See other formats

THE    CHINESE    PEOPLE                  2J
civilized indoor living. The general lack or extreme paucity of beard on man's face is one instance of such effect, a fact which makes it possible for most Chinese men not to know the use of a personal razor. Hair on men's chests is unknown, and a moustache on a woman's face, not so rare in Europe, is out of the question in China. On good authority from medical doctors, and from references in writing, one knows that a perfectly bare mons veneris is not uncommon in Chinese women. The pores of the skin are finer than those of the Europeans, with the result that Chinese ladies, on the whole, have more delicate complexions than have European ladies, and their muscles are considerably more flabby, an ideal consciously cultivated through the institution of footbinding, which has other sex appeals. The Chinese are evidently aware of this effect, for in Hsinfeng, Kwangtung, keepers of poultry yards keep their chickens shut up for life in a dark coop, without room for movement, giving us the Hsinfeng chicken, noted for its extreme tenderness. Glandular secretions from the skin must have correspondingly decreased, for the Chinese explain the foreigners' habit of taking their (imagined) daily baths by their comparatively stronger bodily odour. Perhaps the most marked difference is in the loss of the full, rich resonant quality in the Chinese voice, compared with that of the Europeans.
While facts regarding the senses are not to my knowledge available, there is no reason to suppose a deterioration in the fine use of the ears and the eyes. The refined olfactory sense is reflected in the Chinese cuisine and in the fact that, in Peking, one speaks of kissing a baby as "smelling" a baby, which is what is done actually. The Chinese literary language has also many equivalents of the French odeur de femme, like "flesh odour" and "fragrance from marble (a woman's body)/3 On the other hand, sensitiveness to cold and heat and pain and general noise seems to be much more blunt in the Chinese than in the white man. One is well trained for such hardness in the Chinese family communal living. Perhaps the one thing that compels admiration from Westerners is our nerves. While sensitiveness is often very refined along specialized lines—the obvious proof of this is the great beauty of Chinese handicraft products in general—there seems to be a corresponding coarse-